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Have you ever said something that had an innocent meaning, but taken out of context doesn't sound very good?

It was Magic and Music's night off in the Atrium. So Jim and Denise Duncan joined Marla and I in a ship wide search for another dance venue.  The four of us finally settled down in Alfred's Lounge.  Here we began listening to a six piece jazz band. They didn't provide any vocals, but they proved to be good musicians. I liked what I heard.  

They were advertised as a "Swing Band", so Marla and I got up and tried Swing dancing.  That is when I learned the hard way that they played their music too fast and too long. They also liked to do solos where one person played and the other five sat in quiet admiration. That really stretched out the songs!  Other than that, their music had a good beat.  If you had a marathoner's endurance, you could even dance to it!

Marla and I tried one more song. The problem with dancing to fast music is you wear out quickly. We reached the four minute mark to this second song and it seemed like there was still no end in sight. I asked Marla if she minded if we sat down. Not at all. I guess Jim and Denise came to the same conclusion because they sat down just after we did.

The next two songs were also very long. Then came a song that was a bit slower. I immediately asked Denise to dance. Not wishing to be committed to dancing all the way through what might turn out to be another eight minute song, I remarked aloud, "C'mon, Denise, let's go have some fun. I think I am good for three minutes." It never quite dawned on me how that statement might sound to other people, say Jim, Marla, and Denise for example. Little did I know they were saving this nugget for later.

It wasn't until dinner the next night that I got teased about it. I had just excused myself to go speak to another table when the three of them spoke at once, "Oh, do you have another 3 minutes of fun planned?" 

I was amazed at the ambush. 
I immediately blushed and stuttered, "You knew what I meant, didn't you?" Gleeful to see me so flustered, the three of them kept it going for a while. They had quite a bit of fun at my expense.

Jim and Marla



George Sargent is an SSQQ Hall of Fame Cruiser.  This year's trip was his sixth SSQQ Dance Cruise in a row. George first came to my attention on the 2004 trip to Mardi Gras. He had so much fun on that trip that he signed up for the 2004 Summer Dance Cruise as well. 

Using hot tub skills he had developed during the Mardi Gras Trip, George became the life of the party on the 2004 Summer Dance Cruise. In fact, George was a very bad boy on that trip. That is the trip when George first teamed up with his counterpart in crime Phyllis "Trouble" Porter.  Phyllis helped George get into more trouble than any normal person can ever comprehend.   

Yes, indeed, George packed more misbehavior into that one trip than any other single person in the history of our Cruise Trips.  I can't write any further.  Without the pictures, anything I say is fairly meaningless.  Therefore, in order to truly understand the complexities of Being George, you should definitely should read that story before you continue here.

The Final Chapter: The Incredible Tale of Mr. Handsome

Last year (2008) George staged his greatest hot-tub stuffing events ever, but I was so preoccupied with the headaches that I didn't even notice. 

That was then; this is now. Things were kind of quiet this year, so I hoped for another human highlight reel of mischief.  This way I could have something fun to write about and my trip wouldn't seem 'boring'.

Alas, I soon discovered George is nowhere near as much fun as he used to be. George once had sizzle, now he is mostly fizzle. He didn't want to get into any trouble at all!  Let's face it; this year George
had a ho-hum trip.

As the Founding Father of the Hot Tub Olympics and the holder of the Guinness Record for most people in a hot tub (45), George was totally unable to organize any serious hot tub stuffing on this year's trip. When Phyllis Porter learned of his difficulties, our erstwhile Troublemaker immediately pointed out that George was helpless on this trip without her. She said this proves that all the credit for George's hot tub stuffing glories should go to her instead. Ouch!

George didn't show a whole lot of interest in dancing either.  Our first group dance lesson involved learning Foxtrot. From past experience, I assumed the ship's orchestra would be playing Big Band music at the evening event known as The Captain's Reception.  George showed up for the lesson and dutifully went through the motions to a dance he wasn't remotely interested in.  Unfortunately, that night the band didn't play a single Foxtrot.  They just stayed with Swing and Slow Dance tunes. 

The next morning I asked George if he would participate in my "Barn Dance" class.  Barn Dance is my term for the six group dances we use at parties like the Honky Tonk Waltz, the Virginia Reel, and the San Antonio Stroll.  I told George we needed every available man to help balance the boy-girl ratio. George looked at me like I was crazy.   He said, "Why should I show up?  You can't trick me twice. When am I ever going to use those dances?   You promised me that Foxtrot would be useful and they didn't play one single Foxtrot. Besides, I'm not available. I have a girlfriend along. I'll tell you what; if my girlfriend tells me to be there, then I will show up."

In the old days, George had a mind of his own.  That was then; this was now.  George did actually show up... with an invisible leash around the neck held by the girlfriend.  There's your explanation for his appearance right there.  Unfortunately George did not participate.  We were having loads of fun out there, but all George did was cross his arms & watch. Mr. Grumpy.

George's trip wasn't all bad. I suppose I should admit that my sand volleyball team got soundly licked by George's volleyball team in Cozumel this year. We didn't just get beat, we got sand kicked in our faces.

Last year was a different story. On last year's cruise, my team which included Gary Catalan and Jim Duncan won a very narrow victory. Unfortunately, neither guy wanted to play this year and defend the honor of our team. I took this as a bad omen. At the same time, several players from George's team, in particular John Hall and Joel Konkel, were spoiling for a rematch. They had a very determined look on their face from the start.

The first game was pretty even right up until the end.  My team (including me) suddenly had trouble getting our serves in.  Consequently George's team pulled away to eke out a narrow win 15-12.

In the second game, both sides added players. However, it was the addition of Veronica Sauceda that proved to be the turning point. I am not sure Veronica is an experienced volleyball. In fact, judging by her serve, I pegged Veronica as a complete Beginner. I therefore assumed Veronica wasn't going to be a major threat to our success.  Stupid me.  The moment Veronica stepped on the court, her team ran off 13 points in a row. Considering the game only goes to 15, this match was quite a rout!

Veronica entered the game as the server.  Her first serve went over the nearby cabana.  I said give her another try.  The score was tied 2-2 at that point so I felt magnanimous. Her next serve went in the ocean.  Give her another try.  Her third try went awry as well.  So we gave her permission to move closer to the net on her next serve.  To our shock and dismay, not only did her next serve go over the net, we didn't even lay a hand on it!  The ball hit the sand untouched. Point Veronica. That was the beginning of the end.

From that point on, we fell apart.  Later on, a
s I analyzed our humiliating collapse, I couldn't figure out how Veronica had made such a difference. The moment she showed up, suddenly we couldn't do anything right. It was ridiculous how badly my team fell apart (including me).

Veronica made a couple solid plays, but that was hardly enough to explain 13 straight points.  I decided Veronica's contributions were more intangible than anything athletic.  Now it was true Veronica was kind of distracting (in a good way of course).  Veronica was cheerful, giggling, hoppin' and boppin' and bouncing around from the very start.  She made everyone laugh. I have to admit with her on the court, there were a couple times when I wasn't concentrating as hard as I should have.  The fact is, Veronica gave her team a real lift. But not 13 points worth!

Then it dawned on me.  I suddenly realized there might be a secret reason we lost so badly. You see, George's team had seven players. In order to get Veronica in the game, George had to rotate out. And that was the difference. Without George in the lineup, his team became invincible. What a tough break for us that George wasn't playing any longer!

Afterwards George told me it was his coaching from the sidelines that made the big difference.  Oh, sure, George. 

As for volleyball, there's always next year. George and I have been squaring off for these matches now six years in row.  And you know what?  I don't have a clue what the overall record is.  I just know that anytime George looks at me for the next year, he will have that little smile on his face.  My team won, yours didn't.

I suppose I should confess I missed George on this trip. He used to be my favorite sparring partner, but this year he didn't want to argue with me about anything.  He said he wanted to chill.  And that he did.

And now for your viewing pleasure, I have laid out a pictorial recap of George's 2009 cruise.  Alas, sorry to say, I had to omit the pictures of George dancing on this trip.  Maybe 'omit' is the wrong word.  It turns out there weren't any pictures of George dancing.   

Obviously George wasn't quite himself this year.  Here's hoping he gets his mojo back for the next trip. I miss good old George a lot. By the way, I still think George is the best-looking guy on the planet since Cary Grant.

We are the Champions of the World!

Joel Konkel, Richard Greason, Sam Lathrum, Kevin Macleod, MVP Veronica, John Hall and Mr. Handsome.  Don Taylor is missing.

By the way, Richard, weren't you and your son Scott on my team?

Another year, another visit to Senor Frog in Cozumel. 
Or was it Carlos and Charlie's this year?



We had a last-minute addition to our group - Robin Reel. She was the winner of the $100 cruise trip contest.  

When you are single, the problem with booking a cruise well in advance is that your love life could change at any moment.  We had one lady signed up who met a man shortly before the cruise and didn't want to go without him.  I know the cynical among you are rolling your eyes, but you might be surprised to know this same thing happened last year as well. 

Five days before the trip, the lady
cancelled.  Now Marla had a paid-for cabin on her hands.  Marla didn't see any point in seeing it go to waste, so she offered the room for $100 to the first person who emailed her with a registration and a credit card number. Even though Robin was only the sixth person to get her email in, she won because she was the first one to follow Marla's directions.

Although I am usually a bit cynical about good deeds - "no good deed goes unpunished" - in this case Marla's extra effort was rewardedI think Robin had as much fun or even more than anyone on our trip. Robin was bubbling over with enthusiasm!

After the trip, Robin wrote a very sweet note.

"Hi Rick and Marla!

Just wanted to let you guys know how wonderful a time I had on my FIRST cruise with the group from SSQQ. (First of many, I hope!) I still can't believe my luck in getting this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to the islands of Jamaica/Cayman/Cozumel with such an incredible group of people, and at such a great price too! ;->

I have to admit that I was a bit worried at first since I didn't know a soul that would be going on the trip besides Rick of course, but from the moment that I set foot on the boat I felt very comfortable and welcomed as I met all the friendly folks in the group. I really enjoyed watching the experienced dancers showing off their moves on the dance floor - what an incentive to get me back into the Studio for lots of classes! The workshops you gave were loads of fun (loved the part where we danced with kleenex between our legs!), and some of the guys didn't even mind dancing with a beginner!

I have some photos that I'd love to share with everyone - I'm sure you've got a procedure for this already since there have been so many trips in the past - can you let me know your preference for sending them? I'll be in the studio for classes soon, so could just bring a CD if that's best for you.

Again, many thanks for a fantastic week - this is a trip that I will remember for many, many years.    Fondly, Robin

p.s. Still not sure how I feel about being forever known as the "$100 Dollar Special"!! HaHa!"

John Hall and Robin

Robin and Trenton Taylor



Champagne Night is a favorite cruise tradition that dates back to 2004. 

The champagne perk was new in 2004.  On previous cruises, a woman from a travel agency had booked the trips.  Consequently no champagne.  That changed quickly when Marla took over.

As a reward for organizing large groups on cruise trips, Marla is given "points".  There are different options that Marla can exercise with these points.  For example, Marla could convert her points into added commission (which is what her predecessor did). 

Marla prefers to do things her own way.  She would rather reward her group for their support. So Marla converts her points into many small gifts for the passengers.  One of those gifts is a bottle of champagne in every cabin.

In 2004 everyone told Marla how much they appreciated the bottle of champagne.  However, what Marla did not know was that most of these bottles were sitting back in the cabins unopened. 

The problem with a bottle in a cabin is that there is only one bottle.  Now if you are a "romantic couple", this is a real treat.  However, half of our cabins don't fall into this category.  In 2004, a lot of these roommates had just met. Two guys who barely knew each other weren't as excited about sharing a bottle with each other in the wee hours as you might think.

Some perks are easily divided. For example, anyone with minimal math skills knows what to do with four chocolate covered strawberries.  But it is very difficult to slice a bottle in two.  Since courtesy dictates that you have to share the bottle with your roommate somehow, most people solved the solution by leaving the bottles unopened.

One of the single guys on the trip complained to Mara Rivas that his champagne was going to waste.  Mara realized her own room had an unopened bottle for the same reason. Mara smiled.  She had an idea. Why not have everyone pool their resources for a big 6 pm bash on Thursday Formal Night before our group picture at 7 pm?  Such a Smart Girl!

Well, Mara's idea worked like a charm.  Everyone got smashed which made the event a smashing success!  A tradition was born.

Fast-forward to last year's headache trip. Two women who were totally new to our trip completely lost control.  Nicknamed Destructo and Oblivion, they thought it was a ton of fun to open every single bottle and watch the cork explode.  One consequence was that champagne spewed all over the floor.  Not only was the champagne being wasted, but the nearby floor was becoming a sticky, gooey mess.  Try walking in that stuff with your precious leather-soled dance shoes and see how you feel about their behavior.

Even worse, these women had no concern where the corks flew.  Patty and Joe, two of my friends, both reported being hit by a cork.  That's how you can lose an eye.  Since I only have one eye, I am especially sensitive to any kind of stupidity that endangers the safety of other people.

However, it wasn't just our guests who were in danger.  These two women were firing many of their corks into the metal ceiling.  I blanched as I saw the corks were leaving dents in the ceiling!

I ordered the women to stop, but they were so drunk, they didn't listen to a word I said.  Right then one of the women aimed a bottle at a TV screen. I lost my temper.  I grabbed the woman's wrist and physically jerked the bottle out of her hands.  She had the nerve to try to grab another bottle, but I pushed her away. Then I pointed to the door and told her to get lost.

You live and you learn.  This year's Champagne Party had one major change - I became the bartender.  Since it was now obvious that some people on my trips require adult supervision, I vowed not to let those bottles out of my sight.  Everything has consequences.  This meant there would be no dancing for Rick at this party. Oh well.  On the bright side, it also meant I had more time to sip champagne.  Witness the smile.

This year I got there early.  Out of morbid curiosity, when no one was looking, I surveyed the ceiling for damage.  Sure enough, I identified four different small dents in the ceiling.  Fortunately they weren't anywhere near as bad as I thought they were, so I was relieved in that sense.

I thought quietly to myself that no one would even know they were up there unless someone pointed them out.  Just then, the sweet lady who was the Carnival representative for our group came up from behind and tapped me on the shoulder.  I turned around to see her and turned white as a ghost. Busted! I was stunned. Thanks to my guilty conscience, I assumed she knew all about the dents and was preparing to read me the riot act. 

There's no way someone could have discovered those dents in the ceiling.  How did she find out?  Did someone in our group tip her off?  Does she read our web site?   My mind was racing. I was just on the verge of making a giant confession when she spoke first. The lady asked me where I wanted the champagne glasses dropped off. 

I was so rattled, I couldn't speak!  The timing of her appearance had been so uncanny that I am convinced one of the Gods on Mount Olympus had deliberately arranged it just to see me squirm.

Just as I began to regain my voice, one of our guests walked over to me. He had noticed me looking up in the ceiling and had just figured out what I was doing.  Now he was curious too.  He said, "Hey Rick, did you find any holes up there?" 

The woman's eyes were immediately drawn to him.  What holes?  As she turned her back to me, I silently sent him a panicked "Shut the youknowwhat up!" signal by pretending to slit my throat. That's when he realized who the lady was. Now he turned white as a ghost too! He instantly bit his tongue.  Now the lady turned back to me with a very confused look on her face.  She gave me the funniest look.  She knew something was very odd, but wasn't sure whether to pursue it or not.

I smiled and said, "Could you have the man put the glasses here on the counter?"  I pointed to a spot to distract her.  She hesitated for a moment.  She seemed to be debating whether to question me or not about my odd behavior.  Finally she said that would be fine, then left with a big frown.

Meanwhile my nerves were completely shot.  Fortunately someone came to my rescue.  Michael Flores (pictured) was a wonderful help to me.  I don't know if Michael knew about all my problems from last year or not, but he stayed right at my side for most of the party.  Michael opened a few bottles, put the empty bottles in a safe place, and poured champagne for our guests.  He gave up most of his own party to help me.  Mind you, I didn't ask him to help.  He just volunteered.  Well, trust me when I say I appreciated his help.  Michael was the perfect wingman for the occasion.  I literally felt like he was watching my back.  Thank you, Michael.

As a semi-amusing post script, throughout the night people came over to point and stare at the pockmarks in the ceiling.  The pockmarks had become a major tourist attraction.  Small wonder I feel old for my age.  Very old.

Natia Peleaz and newlywed Dina Burton/Catalan

Janis Peccia, her brother Gordon, Rowena,
plus our newlyweds Chad and Allison

Why is this man smiling?

Roberta Burns and Mark (James Bond) Sellers on the dance floor

Michael Flores and his lovely wife Cindy



"Wilson" of course was the name of the famous volleyball that served as Tom Hanks' best friend and constant companion in the movie Castaway.

Linda Costigan Taylor found a very interesting companion of her own for this trip.  No, I am not talking about that crazy Veronica who cost me my volleyball title, but rather a huge lifelike coconut with a monkey face.  Wilson accompanied Linda everywhere she went.  Rumors began to fly.

Needless to say, a picture is always worth a thousand words.  Let me add that Wilson immediately became the subject of all sorts of tasteless humor.

Jane says to Tarzan, "Oh, Tarzan, you're so big and strong. What large coconuts you must have!" "Just wait till Jane see Tarzan's big banana!"

As for love affairs that begin at sea and make it to land, I am pleased to report that Wilson made it past customs.  Wilson has since been seen here at the studio taking dance classes. 

The other night, Linda had her car broken into while she was at Wild West.  I asked her what happened.  She said someone broke the window and stole her purse.  Although Linda lost a lot of money, she smiled bravely and added, "Well, at least they didn't take Wilson."


I was minding my own business up in Cezanne's Restaurant one morning when Steve Gabino popped in to ask me if I wanted him to take a jump picture of Marla and me.

I stared at Steve and his camera for a moment.  I had no idea what a jump picture was.  I asked Steve if this was a trick.  No, this was on the level.

I didn't want to tell Steve that I didn't know what a jump picture was.  It gets tiresome revealing my ignorance.  I gave it a little thought.  I can jump.  I think Marla can too.  Then I had an idea - why not lift Marla?  Wouldn't that count as a jump picture?   Sure. Why not? 

Marla dutifully followed me outside which surprised me.  Marla is instantly suspicious of anything new.  I am not quite sure Marla knew what a jump picture was either, but since there was a camera involved, she cooperated.  Must be a woman thing.

The next thing she knew, Marla was airborne.  I sent Marla so far in the sky that for a moment she panicked and thought I was throwing her overboard.  So Marla did the most natural thing in the world - she screamed bloody murder!

As always, a picture is worth a thousand words.  As they say, priceless.  That picture is certain to become a family heirloom.

So where did jump pictures come from?  To be honest, I have no idea what the story is behind this enlightened lunacy. Now that I think of it, I have pictures of Steve from previous trips where he goes airborne, but I just accepted them at face value.  That leads me to suspect Steve has been jumping for years and I am just now figuring it out.  It gets old being the last to know. I should know.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, are more jump pictures.  That's Iqbal, Rowena and Charley (probably), plus Joel, the Zipline Aerialist.  By the way, do you have any idea how irritating it is to see Rowena doing the same picture as Marla and me?  That's like buying an expensive dress just to see some other hussy wear it to the same party and look better wearing it. 

Believe me when I say it took true professional integrity on my part to include Rowena's picture here.

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